Ruth Sawyer said she has used her St. John Ambulance training hundreds of times, in fact she saved a life with it.
“It has been a huge part of my life,” said Sawyer, who has been a trainer, volunteer and board member of St. John Ambulance for about 20 years. “I have done tons of first aid in my workplace and out on public duties, I would guess 300 to 400 times. My first CPR incident was at a high school sports track meet. One of the teachers had a heart attack and I had to do CPR on the young man. He was only about 33 and he survived.”
With so much experience with St. John Ambulance, Sawyer is pleased to see the organization move into their new digs at 120 – 316 Dawson Ave. The charitable organization has carried out its mission of training and community services in Penticton since 1992. Sawyer said in those days they trained out of a cramped garage downtown.
“I think as many people should know how to do CPR as possible. The steps are a lot easier these days and people who think they are too frightened to do it would be surprised that when it is called upon they just block everything out and concentrate on doing it,” said Sawyer. “I would like to see more senior citizens learning first aid. Quite often they are taking care of their grandchildren, and if a child chokes at least they would know what to do, or if their partner has a heart attack they could attend to them until the B.C. Ambulance Service shows up.”
With those things in mind, Debbie Cosby, branch manager at Penticton St. John Ambulance, has co-ordinated a free CPR day on Saturday. The course is for families, with information on CPR for infants, children and adults. The four-and-a-half-hour courses will run at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. and those who complete it will get a certificate. Two years ago St. John ran a similar event at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre, putting through 200 people in one day.
“It’s a give back to the community and we are hoping a lot of young single parents will sign up. There is a lot of people that work and have to have a regular CPR course, but they don’t include infants and children in those courses,” said Cosby.
This year’s free CPR event will be held in the new building St. John Ambulance is housed in, and those interested in participating must sign up beforehand as they only have room for 100 people. The new facility has three classrooms, a lunchroom, parking and a laundry facility. On Dec. 8 an open house will be held for the public to see the new building, which was renovated with assistance of local businesses who offered discounts on everything from cabinets and electronics to the washer and dryer.
“All the money made from courses we hold goes back into buying books, paying for instructors and keeping things running. We also have a community service side like our therapy dog program which is all volunteers. Then we have our volunteer brigade which go out to events like the elections or motocross racing to provide first aid if needed,” said Cosby.
Brigade volunteers pay for pre-requisite courses but are reimbursed provided they volunteer for 60 hours in a year.
“First aid can cross over to many careers. Having volunteer experience, especially first aid, on your resume is huge. It is a good opportunity for people who have a family to learn CPR, keep up to date on first aid and get higher levels of training for free,” said Cosby.